As a Beach Boys fan, I was delighted to learn recently that two of their first concerts were in San Bernardino, before anyone knew who they were, and that they also had concerts in Pomona, Ontario, Hemet and Indio during this apprenticeship period. I write about that, as well as about a pungent speaker at the Rancho Cucamonga council meeting last week, in my Sunday column.
As mentioned in m column back in August, Elvis Presley headlined two concerts at San Bernardino’s Swing Auditorium in 1972 and another two in 1974. I write about the ’72 shows — for their 50th anniversary! — based on setlists, newspaper accounts and fan memories, in my Sunday column.
Reports say that rockabilly singer Glen Glenn of Ontario died March 18 at age 87. I interviewed him in early 2005; as my column is no longer online, here’s the text below for posterity.
Elvis left Glenn all shook up
published Jan. 7, 2005
Glen Glenn is perched on a stool in his Ontario living room, his 1952 Martin guitar on his leg, doing a run-through of “Baby, Let’s Play House,” his favorite Elvis Presley song.
“Oh, baby, baby, baby, b-b-b-b-b-baby, baby, baby … come back, baby, I wanna play house with you.”
Elvis would have been 70 on Saturday — except for the little matter of his death in 1977, when he left the building permanently.
Glen Glenn is 70 and still breathing. And he’s the rockin’-est grandfather of two you’ll ever meet.
OK, so you’ve never heard of him. Until a couple of years ago, neither had I, and I’ve got a lot of ’50s records.
He’s got a good excuse: Days after recording his first single, he was drafted. Unlike Elvis, two years of military service ended his career.
Rediscovered in the 1980s, he’s basking in acclaim in his golden years — a gig opening for Bob Dylan, concerts in Europe, and lavish CD anthologies of his 1950s records.
More on that in a minute. First, let’s talk Elvis.
On April 4, 1956, Glenn and his buddy, Gary Lambert, made the drive from San Dimas to San Diego to see Elvis’ first West Coast concert.
They were accustomed to country singers who stood stock-still onstage. Elvis’ shtick was to shake like his body was crawling with spiders.
“People went crazy when he walked out there,” Glenn recalls of the San Diego show. “He came out and shook for about five minutes, while D.J. (Fontana) played the drums behind him.”
It sounds like a burlesque act. Then Elvis launched into his songs — although “you could barely hear him, the girls were screaming so loud,” Glenn notes.
Afterward, country singer Fred Maddox introduced him to Elvis, who was a captive audience — the building was surrounded by screaming women, so he couldn’t leave.
Glenn has photos of himself with hundreds of musicians, but Elvis is the one who rocked his world.
He forgot about being a country singer and went rock.
“I did it because of girls,” Glenn says with a laugh. “If you played country, girls might want your autograph. If you did this kind of music, girls freaked out.”
He was so excited to be in the business, he saved everything with his name on it, and didn’t even fuss when his record company changed Glen Troutman, his real name, to Glen Glenn.
He admits it’s a dorky name. But as he puts it: “I wanted on a record so bad, they could’ve called me Jack the Ripper.”
Recorded in the rockabilly style of early Elvis, his songs were “Laurie Ann,” “Everybody’s Movin”‘ and “One Cup of Coffee and a Cigarette.”
Stuck on an Army base in Hawaii, he watched helplessly as his records stiffed. An invitation from Dick Clark to appear on “American Bandstand” to sing “Laurie Ann” fell through when Glenn’s commanding officer refused to give him a weekend pass.
By the time he got out in 1960, music had passed him by.
So the Bonita High dropout hung up his guitar, got married, bought a home in Ontario and spent the next three decades in the stockroom of missile-makin’ General Dynamics. (Crazy, man, crazy.)
A rockabilly revival in the 1980s led by the Stray Cats resulted in his unlikely comeback.
An English record label put out an album of Glenn’s 1950s tracks. Fans wanted to find out more.
“I started getting calls from Europe,” Glenn marvels.
Aficionados hold him in high regard, perhaps not so much for his thin body of work as for what he represents: a link to Elvis-style rock. As he brags: “You could go on Google and type in “Glen Glenn’ and you’d be there all day.”
Dylan, a fan, chose him as opening act for a 1995 concert at the Hollywood Palladium. They met backstage.
“Dylan hugged me,” Glenn says.
When he was introduced to the Stray Cats’ Brian Setzer, Glenn says, “Setzer bowed to me. I said, “Why are you bowing to me? You’re bigger than I am.'”
On Saturday, Glenn will be onstage at the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood as part of an Elvis tribute, an annual revue hosted by Art Fein. He’ll sing “Mean Woman Blues” and, of course, “Baby, Let’s Play House.”
Is it hard to perform at age 70?
As Mary, his wife of 43 years, likes to tease him: “Around the house you’re dead, but once you get onstage, you come alive.”
“When those lights come on,” Glenn adds, “it perks me up.”
David Allen, that hound dog, writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday.
A bonus track by Adele on her new album contains the memorable line “I lost my mind in San Bernardino.” The Inland Empire thanks her. (She’s doing fine, obviously. Also, it’s an excellent song.) I also bring up the San Bernardino mention in a song two years ago by The Boss and note a couple of literary references to the IE in my pre-Thanksgiving column.
Picking up where I left off 14 months ago (!), when I wrote about the Rolling Stones’ third (of four) concert appearances in San Bernardino for its 55th anniversary, I give the same honor to their fourth and final appearance — July 24, 1966 — in Sunday’s column. Rock history must be served!
The band made an appearance (but didn’t perform) at Music Plus in Chino on its opening day. (Can you believe 1981 is 40 years ago?) Also, Barbara Cheatley’s store closes Saturday, and an Upland figure retires, all in Friday’s column.
Information on Joan Baez’ Redlands years has continued to come in despite 2 1/2 previous columns on the subject, and I am helpless to ignore it. In my defense, I got 20 years of occasional columns out of Frank Zappa’s Cucamonga, Ontario and Pomona years. Also, I write about an angle unexplored before: her 1964 evening concert at University of Redlands. (The afternoon concert at Redlands High was a previous topic.) And so, Baez in Redlands makes up Sunday’s column.
I use the excuse of the Filippi Winery news of last month to resurrect the story of the Grateful Dead song, “Pride of Cucamonga,” that takes its name from a Filippi product. It could’ve been a paragraph, but since it’s been, gulp, 16 years since I last wrote about this bit of immortality, might as well drag it into the sunlight again for a new generation. Also, more about the old days of wine-tasting in the Inland Valley, a centenarian in Fontana gets the COVID vaccine and a virtual talk will explore Pomona’s LGBTQ history. All of this is in Friday’s column. Now how much would you pay?
While I like researching local angles to subjects I’m not even particularly interested in, like Van Halen, it was a rare treat to research a local angle to a subject about which I’m intensely interested, like Bob Dylan. His Feb. 25, 1964 concert at UC Riverside is the focus of Wednesday’s column.
When a Riverside County reader told me he grew up with rocker Ritchie Valens, and had photos, I thought this sounded promising and made an appointment to meet him. He was definitely worth talking to, a story I tell in Friday’s column. (I’m hoping I’m not testing the patience of those uninterested in Valens. Sometimes when it rains, it pours.)